Wednesday, June 29, 2011

H.R.H. Prince Philippe Attends Exclusive Meeting with CEOs and Decoration Ceremony for Guillaume Bastiaens

                                                           © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Yesterday afternoon, H.R.H. Prince Philippe attended the final event of the Economic Mission’s Washington, DC agenda at the Belgian Ambassador’s residence.  There, H.R.H. Prince Philippe honored Guillaume Bastiaens, a distinguished Belgian engineer who formerly served as Executive Vice President and President of the Food Sector at Cargill, Inc. 

Prior to the decoration ceremony, the Prince met with CEOs and executives of many prominent American companies to discuss future endeavors and to continue to promote Belgium’s economic strength and innovation.

H.R.H. Prince Philippe & Belgian Foreign Minister Vanackere Meet with Vice President Biden and Senator Kerry

On the final day of the Belgian Economic Mission in Washington, DC, H.R.H. Prince Philippe and Belgian Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Steven Vanackere met with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.  There, the dignitaries spoke about the Belgian economic mission, emerging economies, relations with Russia (which both the Vice-President and the Crown Prince visited earlier this year) as well as the situation in Libya and the America’s and NATO’s presence in Afghanistan, where Belgium has deployed over 600 ground troops and multiple F-16 fighter jets. 

After the meeting in the White House, H.R.H. Prince Philippe and H.E. Steven Vanackere met with Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  In the meeting – which took place in the U.S. Capitol Building – H.R.H. the Prince and Foreign Minister Vanackere spoke with Senator Kerry about global political events, such as the latest developments in the Arab world, the Middle East, and Afghanistan.  Additionally, the group discussed the importance of the Belgian Economic Mission, and the Mission’s focus on Belgium’s Biotechnology Industry. 

H.R.H. Princess Mathilde Advances Community Development at KaBOOM!

                                                       © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Yesterday, H.R.H. Princess Mathilde visited KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization that builds playgrounds.  There, she was greeted by KaBOOM! CEO Darrel Hammond, and engaged with organization members about KaBOOM! programs and initiatives.  Following a brief tour and information session, H.R.H. the Princess spoke with children in a KaBOOM! playroom.

                                                        © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

H.R.H. Princess Mathilde Promotes Social Entrepreneurship & Poverty Awareness

                                                          © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

On the Belgian Economic Mission’s final day in Washington, DC, H.R.H. Princess Mathilde attended a college summit on social entrepreneurship where she spoke personally with students, President Dean Furbush, and CEO & Founder J.B. Schramm about engaging young students in giving back to their communities. 

                                                         © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Following this event, the Princess attended a Micro-Finance Event to discuss views on improving financial access to those in poverty.  The event was hosted by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), an independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor.

H.R.H. Prince Philippe Presides Over Official Opening of Belgian Pavilion at BIO

© 2011 Embassy of Belgium

                                                        © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Yesterday morning, H.R.H. Prince Philippe took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with James C. Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).  The event market the official opening of the Belgian Pavilion at the 2011 BIO International Convention.

                                                          © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Prince toured the entire Belgian pavilion, and received an in-depth look at Belgium’s innovative and world-leading biotechnology industry.

                                                            © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

H.R.H. Prince Philippe Meets with FDA Commissioner Dr. Hamburg

                                                          © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Yesterday morning, H.R.H. Prince Philippe met with FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg to discuss pharmaceutical and regulatory issues.  Following the meeting, Dr. Hamburg delivered a presentation regarding pharmaceutical authorization and biopharmaceuticals at a seminar organized by the Belgian authorities and the FDA.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TT.RR.HH. Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, Preside Over U.S.-Belgian Business Cooperation Agreements

                                                         © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Yesterday evening, TT.RR.HH. Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, along with Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray presided over cooperation agreements between a number of Belgian and American business ventures.

The signings featured agreements between:

  • 4DDynamics & Digital Signal Corporation
  • Septentrio & Altus & BMI/SBI
  • Van Hool & Coach USA
  • Press Club Brussels Europe & The National Press Club
  • Brewery Corsendonk & L Knife and Son
  • Brussels Capital Region & District of Columbia
  • Visit Brussels & Destination DC

                                                         © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

After the ceremonies, in honour of TT.RR.HH Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Belgian Ambassador to the United States Jan Matthysen hosted an official reception ‘friends of Belgium’ at his residence.  The merriments included a room full of fine Belgian chocolates, a wide array of some of the world’s best Belgian beer, and a special performance of the American Youth Harp Ensemble.

                                                           © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

H.R.H. Prince Philippe Delivers Keynote Speech at BIO


                                              © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Yesterday, H.R.H. Prince Philippe delivered the keynote speech at the BIO International Convention’s Belgian Session “Belgium: Governmental Funding Initiatives Boosting Biotech R&D.”  With the highest density of life sciences researchers on the planet, Belgium is a thriving center for the Biotechnology industry, with a favorable environment for R&D and innovation.  It is noted as one of the top ten biotech countries in the world, housing more than 200 biotechnology companies and research centers. H.R.H. Prince Philippe’s Speech is presented below:

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In most innovative and high added-value industries, everything starts with an idea – a dream even – to find ways to serve mankind. This is certainly true for life sciences. Life sciences look at ways to improve our health - our well-being - our planet. Life sciences have the potential to improve our most valued asset – our lives. The world changes so fast – and life-sciences change even faster.  Great progress is being made.  New treatments have been found for what until only recently were incurable diseases.  Things we could only dream about ten years ago have today become reality.

I would like to salute and thank the organizers of BIO. You are instrumental in organizing this world class event where almost twenty thousand people are meeting together and exchanging views and ideas on how to turn the revolution in life-sciences into reality. 

It is for me a source of great joy and pride to be amongst the representatives of such impressive companies and research institutes involved in life-sciences. This gives me an excellent opportunity to show you and the world what we have achieved in Belgium – and why Belgium can truly be called the “bioscience valley of Europe”.

Belgium has a very strong record in the field of pharmaceutical and biotechnological research.  Several of the most significant medicines were discovered and developed in my country. Per capita, we develop more new medicines than anywhere else in the world and compared with the size of our population, we have the highest number of life science employees to make this happen. As just one example, my country was at the origin of several transformational HIV medicines which have had a huge impact on patient survival.  Belgium is also a world leader in the development and production of vaccines.

It is impressive to note that the importance of bio-pharmaceutical research and development has doubled over the past ten years. In fact, more than fifty percent of my country’s research and development expenditure comes from the bio-pharmaceutical industry!

We may wonder what has produced these impressive results.  How has Belgium succeeded in rising to the top of this sector?

There are many reasons for this.

There is, of course, our central position at the heart of Europe and our first-class logistical and business infrastructure, which for many years has been highly attractive for foreign investors.

The long-established presence of an industrial network of leading pharmaceutical organizations, including many American companies, has produced the basis for an extraordinary amount of experience and know-how. 

To this I would add that Belgium has a particularly open economy.  Thanks to our strong research and development position, we can count on considerable international interest in setting up joint projects. This has led to successful collaboration with pharmaceutical companies world-wide – and we are convinced that this international collaboration is a strong driving force behind research and development in Belgium. 

We also have a supportive regulatory environment both at federal and regional level with, for example, the fastest approval for phase one clinical trials in Europe – just two weeks. 

In addition we most certainly do have a very competitive tax environment for research and development companies, with the lowest effective European tax rate on revenues from patent income, and a seventy-five percent exemption from withholding tax for those employing researchers.

Another important factor is our high level extensive academic network.  We have sixteen universities, three of which rank among the European top twenty-five universities for life sciences, as well as a considerable number of university hospitals and highly specialized biotech research institutes, all with excellent international reputations.

Our universities and institutes have a long-standing policy to support spin-offs, cooperating with the private sector and turning innovation into business opportunities.

But, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is, I believe, a significant additional factor which explains why we are so successful in the field of life sciences.

It is the importance we attach to quality of life.

Quality of life has been deeply embedded in our history since the Middle Ages and it is this that has given us the desire to put human values first.

Health and solidarity play a large part in these values.

Applying human values to science and innovation is the best way to develop the bio-science sector. This is exactly what we have done in Belgium – in our own pragmatic way.  The same approach can be found in our excellent teaching hospitals. Here, patient care is central and at the same time an integral part of the teaching curriculum and basic research. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The discovery of the human genome – did you know that the first gene was sequenced in Belgium?  -  and the subsequent production of the complete DNA map - opened up immense prospects for the improvement of our health. The approach to medicine is set to become increasingly preventive, increasingly personalized and with ever greater chances of success.

The Belgium biotech and biopharmaceutical sector is extremely well-placed to be part of this great adventure. 

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is not by chance then that my country has achieved such a strong position among the highest performers in the field of biopharmacy.

In combining the human values that we hold so dear, with our biotechnological expertise, we have truly created a virtuous circle.

I am sure that this session will convince you that Belgium is one of Europe’s leading biotech hubs.
If you, as an investor, a researcher or an industry representative join with our activities in Belgium, you will not only be part of this technological success; you will also benefit from the quality of life of which we Belgians are so proud.

H.R.H. Prince Philippe Discusses the Importance of Belgium in Merck’s Global Operations

                                                      © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Yesterday, H.R.H. Prince Philippe, along with Belgian Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Steven Vanackere, Minister-President of Flanders Kris Peeters,  Vice-President and Minister of Economy of the Walloon Government Jean-Claude Marcourt, and Minister of Economy, Employment, Scientific Research & Foreign Trade for the Brussels-Capital Region, Benoit Cerexhe hosted a meeting with Merck representatives to engage in a dialogue about the key role of Belgium in Merck’s global business endeavors.  Dr. Julie Gerberding, President of Merck Vaccines, delivered an opening welcome and presentation, followed by Jan Van Acker, Managing Director of MSD Belgium.

H.R.H. Princess Mathilde Delivers Keynote Speech at Council of Women World Leaders Luncheon

                                                          © 2011 Embassy of Belgium

Yesterday afternoon, H.R.H. Princess Mathilde delivered the keynote address at the Council of Women World Leaders Luncheon.  Her speech sought to raise awareness around the issue of violence against women, a topic she cares deeply about.  In her speech, H.R.H. Princess Mathilde acknowledged that today, violence directed toward women is a global problem that can only be solved if both women and men identify the issue and work together to ameliorate it.

The Council of Women World Leaders is a network of current and former women prime ministers, presidents, and heads of government established in 1996 by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland – and first woman in the world to be democratically elected president – and Laura Liswood, Secretary General. The Council strives to mobilize high-level women leaders for collective and global action on issues of critical importance to women. 

H.R.H. Princess Mathilde’s speech is presented below:

Your Royal Highness,
Distinguished Guests,

I am very happy to speak to you today as a guest of the Council of Women World Leaders  — a Council which brings together brilliant and influential women leaders from all over the world.  Because of your past or present positions of responsibility, you are in a privileged position to mobilize actions to advance the cause of women living and working in often precarious and very difficult conditions. Many of your members have taken initiatives to support and promote the qualities and talents of women to enable them to control their own destinies. I applaud you for it.

May I share with you my thoughts on an issue that I consider of the utmost importance — I am speaking about “Violence against Women”. 

I am committed to adding  my voice to all those who express deep concern about the pervasiveness of violence against women and girls. No country is immune from this scourge. The lack of empowerment of women and their marginalization, and the poverty in which they have to live, place them at a higher risk of violence. All forms of violence should be addressed in a holistic and effective way with focus on the empowerment of women in all its aspects. Increased participation of women in political and economic life, and  above all a good quality education are essential if we want to break this cycle of violence.

Combatting violence against women and girls is a big challenge. Many initiatives and actions have been taken over the years. Unfortunately statistics show that discrimination and violence are still present on a huge scale in our societies. No custom, tradition or religious considerations can be invoked to justify acts of violence against women and girls: domestic violence — something that also frequently occurs in our western societies — female genital mutilation, honor crimes, femicide, early and forced marriages, sexual violence as a tactic of war and many others. Let there be no doubt, all of them violate human rights and the principles of human integrity and dignity.

During my travels, I have met many courageous women and girls living in difficult conditions. Each time I was struck both by the hardship of their lives and by their  resilience, hope and strong determination  to strive for a better future. We should help these less fortunate girls and women in their search for a  better life by giving them a voice and a face.

A few weeks ago, I met an extraordinary man, M. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu/East Congo. Dr. Mukwege was in Brussels where he was awarded the prestigious King Baudouin International Development Prize. I was deeply moved by the heartbreaking stories he told and by his unceasing efforts to help thousands of female  survivors of sexual violence in that region. He is a true advocate for breaking the silence on this grave injustice. He is a source of hope and inspiration for many women and girl victims. His dedication and commitment are remarkable.

It is absolutely crucial that men speak up against the stigma with which many women and girl victims have to cope.  Equality and respect will never be achieved without the full involvement of men and boys. They are part of the solution.

We also need to consider how men and women can play an equally important role in providing support for the protection of women in conflict areas. The issue of women’s participation in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation gained momentum, when the UN Security Council adopted several resolutions including the groundbreaking  Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. That was ten years ago and today we  can see that the participation of women in peace building still remains marginal.

Last year I visited Liberia, a country torn apart by civil war but committed to rebuilding and returning to the family of democratic nations under the leadership of President Sirleaf Johnson- another remarkable person deeply concerned with the position of women in society.

I also met with a female battalion of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, very competent women trying hard to protect Liberian girls and women against violence and to prevent it from happening. A positive example. However, the involvement of women in peace making and post-conflict situations needs to become more substantive if a sustainable peace is to be achieved.

As I said earlier, every country is confronted in one way or another by violence against women and girls.

In Europe, our approach is based on the principles of prevention and prosecution, and the protection of women and girls. They form a reference for national policies aimed at eliminating violence and influencing the root causes and the behavior and attitudes that would lead to acts of violence. Impunity from punishment should be stopped by ensuring that women are specifically protected under the law and have equal access to justice.

To mobilize women on a governmental and European level, a European summit was held last year. This Summit gathered together the women ministers of the European Union, whatever their areas of responsibility. The aim of the event was to highlight the importance of fighting different forms of violence against women in the European Union and to break taboos.

Prevention and sensibilization are indeed key issues. Engaging all stakeholders, including the civil society, religious and community leaders, the private sector, youth, men, and the media is essential if we want to change social attitudes.

No country can reach sustainable development, if it does not include and engage half of its population. It is therefore vital to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Once again, I thank the Council of Women World Leaders for giving me the opportunity to bring the issue of violence against women and girls to the attention of this distinguished audience. I am looking forward to listening to your experiences.